London Show Shoe steps up with improved location despite smaller turnout

Running between 10 and 11 September, the show received 170 registrations in total, but on the first day had 35 attendees walk through its doors. Show organiser Justin Morgan believed this slower pace on a Sunday (10 September) was due to the warm weather when temperatures hit more than 30°C  in some parts of the UK.

However, he was hopeful that the second day of the show, when Drapers visited, would attract bigger numbers. He said: “Normally we see around 140 [attendees], and we should see similar numbers as last season [overall].”

February’s show had 68 attendees on the first day and more than 50 on the morning of the second day. When speaking with Drapers before midday, Morgan shared that 20 attendees had arrived.

The number of brands also fell. 48 brands exhibited at this season of the show, down from the 60 exhibitors at February’s show.

While footfall was slower for this season, the new location in the Ilec Conference Centre inside the Ibis London Earls Court hotel was popular with exhibitors and attendees who praised its light and airy feel. The previous shows took place in the Copthorne Tara hotel in Kensington.

Johnny Woolfson, agent for premium women’s footwear brand Paul Green, a brand that has exhibited many times at the London Shoe Show, said the new venue was a “welcome” change: “The new venue is very good – it is airy and has great lighting.”

Lisa Hempstock, owner of Sheffield-based independent boutique Sister, who had put in an order with women’s footwear brand Cuple, said that she preferred the layout of this location. All brands are positioned in one room at the Ilec, whereas in the previous show’s venue at the Copthorne Tara hotel in Kensington, exhibitors were spread out across several different rooms.

“Having everything in one place is great,” Hempstock explained.

Meanwhile, Pauline Booth, founder of Glasgow-based womenswear independent No1 Boutique, added: “It’s a lovely venue [which] is nice and bright with good lighting. It is a slightly smaller show too, which I like, as sometimes the larger shows can be overwhelming.”

Stephen Joseph, managing director of women’s footwear brand Caprice UK, told Drapers he was not completely sold on the new venue, but noted that it would not dissuade visitors due to its proximity to London tube stations – West Brompton tube station is a four minute walk away, while Earls Court is 15 minutes.

However, he shared that buyers had cancelled appointments: “Attendance has been quite low. I had four cancellations yesterday (10 September) – one was due to someone catching Covid and another was because the weather was too nice.” But he remained positive, adding: “I’m not despondent about it.”

Elena Pires, sales adviser for Spanish women’s footwear brand Pedro Miralles, added that the show “wasn’t very busy” due to the hot weather the day prior but was hopeful that more “people will come today”.

Morgan echoed this: “Yesterday the weather played havoc.”

The weather remained a hot topic at the show. Lucy Reece-Raybould, CEO of membership organisation the British Footwear Association, told Drapers: “Trade for retail is tough; the high street was doing reasonably well earlier in the year but the weather during the spring/summer season has been a challenge [alluding to the frequent wet weather during the summer months].”

Paul Green agent Wolfson agreed that the summer months were a “washout”.

Reflecting on the slower footfall, Caprice’s Joseph explained that the reduction in attendees was a trend he was witnessing at other trade shows too, adding that buyers seem to be sticking with the brands they know rather than exploring new brands at trade shows, likely because the brands they have are working and they are reluctant to risk adding something new into the mix.

Lee Budworth, agent for high performance footwear specialist Igi + Co, which was exhibiting for the first time, agreed: “Fashion retailers used to look for something new but are now stuck in a rut [relying on the brands they know].”

Wolfson shared a similar notion: “Retailers are consolidating their buying. Previously [before the Covid pandemic] they would have dipped their toe with smaller brands, but that isn’t the case anymore. [And those that do] if the brand isn’t performing well, they kick them out [of their portfolio].”

Despite challenges, exhibitors and buyers shared an excitement for new trends. Women’s boutique owner Booth identified an emergence of loafers as an important new trend, while Woolfson predicted an increase in military and biker-inspired boots for the winter season.

Uncertainty about trade was also palpable among exhibitors, however there was a sense of optimism for the upcoming winter months. Morgan shared confidence in the show too: “The industry needs a buying opportunity – shoes need an identity and need a specific footwear event [this is what the shoe show aims to do].”

The Ilec will be undergoing refurbishment when The London Shoe Show returns on 11 February with the autumn/winter 24 edition, and a venue will be announced in due course.

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